}

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Internet Wading: Devices, aliens, and a birth

Infographic: America's Smartphone Addiction | Statista

Time to wade into the wonderful warm waters of the Internet for some more interesting, quirky, or annoying things I ran across this month, things that would never make a blog post of their own. If, you know, I was actually blogging regularly. Still, here we go with anotgehr outbreak of worryitis.

There was a lot of hoopla in the news in NZ recently, as there is from time to time, about device addiction. Much of it comes across as the news media obsessing about some health condition they just heard about (or, maybe, made up?) or sinply forgot they already obsessed about that same topic many times before. The graphic up top about “America’s device addiction” clearly represents survey data, but it also nevertheless carries the feeling of the original survey’s silent handwringing and pearl-clutching, the sort of thing the newsmedia feeds off of.

The NZ Herald held up a moral champion in a story “Teen's smartphone addiction: 'I only slept three hours a night'”. The Herald gives us a warm, fuzzy anti-device ending to the story. Whew! But hey, we mustn’t worry about phones and tablets alone! “Gaming addiction declared a mental disorder”. The bottom line, though, is that some people do, indeed, struggle with over-dependence on electronic devices and technology of one sort or another. But the newsmedia seems incapable of separating them from people who may use technology “too much”, but who can just as easily move on. An honest discussion of the issues is good, moral panics are not, and neither is demonising people because someone somewhere thinks they use their electronic device “too much”.

Now on to some real science: “New Scientific Theory For Origin Of Octopuses: They’re Aliens”. Well, of course they are. Duh! Or, how about “NASA Releases 4K Video Of The Moon Ending The Moon Landing Conspiracy”, because nothing stops a conspiracy theory as effectively as facts and evidence, right?

On to the Arts! “21 Books You’ve Been Meaning To Read”, because who doesn’t need to feel inadequate about something else in their lives? On the other hand, “Ivan Albright’s meticulous attention to the human body continues to be an inspiration to young artists” talking about a painter and his works. Fascinating, even though I’d personally never heard of him before.

This one defies categories, really. It’s just kinda interesting-ish: “27 Perfect Coincidences That Were Luckily Captured on Camera”.

June is LGBT+ Pride Month in the Northern Hemisphere, with all the related talk about history and culture, such as this article about Baron Von Steuben: “The American Revolution’s Greatest Leader Was Openly Gay”. What fascinates me about such stories is the extent to which historians will work hard to downplay the reality of historic figures’ lives and the reality—or even possibility—of their homosexuality. I first became aware of that when I was reading about Walt Whitman and saw that historians denied the obvious homoeroticism in his poetry, or the evidence about Whitman’s sexuality.

There were others, too. For example, many years ago I saw a workshop of a play about England’s King Edward II and his relationship with Piers Gaveston. It was the first time I’d ever heard of any gay kings. Since then, I’ve read about King William II, King James I (who was also James VI of Scotland), and others. Related: “The secret history of the gay Kings and Queens of England”.

What all these people have in common is the need that some heterosexual scholars have to “de-gay” people in the past. It denies LGBT+ people our history and our culture, but, worse, by erasing us from history, it also perpetuates the political myth that LGBT+ people are something new, and it’s some sort of fad.

Some politicians clearly don’t get it. In New Zealand, Judith Collins, widely expected to challenge Simon Bridges for the leadership of the National Party sooner or later, got in trouble for “liking” a Tweet that mentioned gays as a negative thing: “Judith Collins apologises for liking 'hugely disappointing' tweet about Labour's 'gays'”. Thing is, Judith has a history: She voted in favour of marriage equality, but she also voted against all three readings of the Civil Unions Act in 2004. In March, 2005, she voted to re-legalise discrimination against LGBT+ New Zealanders. In December of that year, she voted to define marriage as being one man/one woman (I talked about the 2004/5 votes in a post in 2011). She appears to have evolved in recent years, which is great—sincerely. But this incident suggests she’s not all the way there yet.

But forget all that, the biggest news of the month (Year? Millennium?) is that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had her baby! “'Welcome to our village wee one': PM Jacinda Ardern gives birth to a baby girl”. The way things are going in the world, and especially certain parts of it, it’s nice to have something nice to focus on, if only for a moment. [See also: “Birth of PM's baby makes international headlines”].

So, with the Prime Minster’s (and New Zealand’s) waiting over, that’s enough wading, too.

The graphic up top is a "Chart of the Day" infographic from Statista.

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